Weeks 6-9: 2-2 (Overall: 4-5 record)
As predicted, WSH went 2-2 for the next 4 games in frustrating fashion. In spite of the hot takes and reactions, they were close wins and losses within one possession. A few plays here and there could have given Washington an extra win here or there but that's the nature of the game. Washington is 4-5 and thanks to the 7-seed playoff seeding, very much in the hunt. Some things are different, yet some are very much the same.
As before, the offense is still inconsistent. Scoring ranging from as low as 7 to as high as 31, ironically both were losses. If there were any improvement, it's the decrease in sacks Howell has taken over the past 2 games. The scheme changed to a quicker passing attack with more designed plays. And the offensive line improved with Tyler Larsen and Chris Paul subbing in for Nick Gates and Saadiq Charles. And while the record is 1-1, the passing attack has improved greatly, while the rushing attack has seen minimal improvement.
More of the attention have been spotlighting Sam Howell's continued growth as quarterback, convincing fans here and elsewhere, he is the franchise QB for the foreseeable future. And they have a point with Howell being in the top 10-15 in nearly every positive (and sometimes negative) passing metric. I'm more cautious on side, hoping the gaudy stats consistently translate more efficiently to points on the scoreboard and hopefully wins. I hope the next stage of his development involves cutting down on costly turnovers, and good game decision making.
Despite the inconsistency, the offense is trending upward.
While the scoring defense has performed well over the past four games (19.5 ppg over 4 games), there has been still been dissatisfaction given the quality of opponents. So far, the defense has been able to hold down against offenses lead by Desmond Ridder, Tyrod Taylor, and Mac Jones. Not exactly the best of the best. And then they were cooked by Jalen Hurts, A.J Brown and the Eagles' offense for the second time.
Between this and the trading away of Montez Sweat and Chase Young, there is a bit of pessimism heading forward. Though this is the perfect opportunity for veterans and drafted players at defensive end to make the most of their opportunity. Washington also needs to see more production among the interior defensive line as well. WSH mostly handled business against the New England Patriots but the next four games will show if Del Rio and the defensive personnel are up for the task.
State of the Team
Trading away Sweat and Young was a forward thinking move not often associated with the Washington football franchise. They have five selections within the top 100 selections in the upcoming 2024 draft and the possibility for the traded 2nd round selection from Chicago to be high enough to select a 1st round prospect. We can only hope whoever is calling the shots will invest top draft capital in the trenches instead of a sexy selection.
I'm expecting a first round defensive because...yeah.
This is on top of Washington projected to have in the ballpark of $90 million dollars in cap space with only a handful of own free agents to retain.
As things are shaping up, Washington can go in either a direction of a retool or rebuild if management decides to move on from other cornerstone players. This is all dependent on how the second half of the season plays out, whether the Commanders bottoms out, go on a winning streak to reach the postseason, or just missing it per last season.
Next four games: @SEA, NYG, @DAL, MIA
Prediction: 2-2 (Overall: 6-7)
Washington wasted previous opportunities to get easier wins against NYG and CHI. They face NYG at home this time against a possibly worst roster than they face before. But the other three games are against playoff contenders. If there was a time for the November resurgence for Rivera, it would be now. I expect WSH to overperform against one of the three teams, likely Seattle. But wins against high octane offenses like Dallas and Miami involves good strategizing. Something I'm less confident in Del Rio and Rivera this year compared to last. I'm still hopeful Washington could get three wins but that would require consistency on both offense and defense. If WSH can get at least 6-7 wins, they could set themself up for a playoff push heading into bye week.